- The Washington Times - Friday, October 21, 2005

Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring”

Shen Wei Dance Arts

TonightOct. 22Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater

The music: Igor Stravinsky composed the score for the famous Diaghilev Ballets Russes on the eve of World War I. At its 1913 premiere in Paris, the work created a riot, and the police were called. Serge Diaghilev liked to cause a sensation, and this time he did it in spades.

The history: Before the premiere, Mr. Stravinsky played a four-hand piano version with Claude Debussy. Besides being a staple of the orchestral repertoire, the bold, pulsating music has spawned dozens of ballets, beginning with the original, by the legendary dancer Vaslav Nijinsky. His choreography was raw, shocking and primitive — credited with ushering in a new, modern era in dance. The ballet, dropped soon after, was effectively lost. (The Joffrey Ballet mounted a reconstruction of the work in 1987.) In 1930, Leopold Stokowski led the first performance of the music in this country, with Martha Graham dancing a new version by Leonide Massine. Paul Taylor used Mr. Stravinsky’s four-hand version for a wacky story that includes cops and robbers. Last week, the Beijing Modern Dance Company gave its version at the Kennedy Center.

The choreographer: Tonight, Shen Wei, one of the most original voices to have emerged in this country in recent years, offers his take on this challenging score. His seamless blending of his experience growing up in China and working as both choreographer and visual artist in New York gives his work a unique perspective.

Why you should go: To see a cutting-edge artist working with a renowned score in a work he describes as the most popular ballet he has created.

Jean Battey Lewis

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